The Queensland doctors’ union has called for a full investigation into how a doctor and nurse at the same Brisbane hospital contracted coronavirus, leading to two separate clusters of community transmission and a city-wide lockdown.
The latest information state authorities have released suggests the spread of at least 15 cases of coronavirus began with separate infections acquired within the Princess Alexandra hospital at Woolloongabba.
It is understood that neither of the healthcare workers was vaccinated.
On Tuesday evening, the hospital, the state’s second-biggest, was placed into lockdown as a precaution while all staff continued to be tested.
“This additional lockdown will enable PA hospital to put in place processes to manage impacts associated with these linked cases,” a Queensland Health spokesperson said.
The nearby Mater Mothers’ hospital also sent its staff home after a recent visitor tested positive for the virus, the ABC reported.
The vice-president of the Australian Salaried Medical Officers’ Federation Queensland, Dr Hau Tan, told Guardian Australia health authorities needed to properly scrutinise the circumstances of the case, including whether the doctor and nurse had appropriate protective equipment and why they had not been vaccinated.
“Having a doctor and a nurse contract Covid in the one hospital obviously raises concerns and requires a very close look at what’s going on there, collecting all the facts and determining what really happened,” Tan said.
Earlier on Tuesday, the federation and the Australian Medical Association released Queensland survey results that showed 70% of healthcare workers who might come into contact with Covid-affected patients had not been properly fit-tested for their P2/N95 face masks.
Of those who responded to the survey by 23 March, only 43% said they had received their first dose of a Covid vaccine. The Queensland health minister, Yvette D’ath, told said on Tuesday that 89% of frontline health workers were vaccinated.
Tan said the union was being careful not to jump to conclusions or lay blame for the cases.
He said frontline health workers had a right to a safe workplace and that any Covid case among those workers should be treated seriously.
“We understand there is concern regarding the PA [Princess Alexandra] hospital and our position is that we need to conduct a full investigation as quickly as possible into both cases, to tease out any potential gaps in terms of PPE and the way we’re managing Covid cases,” Tan said.
“There were always going to be challenges for the vaccine rollout, in terms of the supply of vaccines and being able to vaccinate people. To be fair, I’m always wary that it’s very easy in hindsight to be critical of such a big undertaking.
“But it is important to know why were these particular healthcare workers not vaccinated, what controls were in place, and what has happened since.”
The Queensland chief health officer, Jeanette Young, told reporters on Tuesday that she had now mandated that workers coming into contact with coronavirus patients must have had at least their first vaccination.
“The number of cases has ramped up at the same time we’ve been trying to vaccinate people,” Young said. “It’s just so unfortunate that this outbreak occurred when it did. Another month and all of our staff [would have been vaccinated].”
D’ath said Queensland carried out a record number of vaccinations on Monday and had now done more than 65,000 in total.
“We had to wait for consistency of supply,” D’ath said. “We had to keep some in supply to give people their second vaccination. We don’t want to vaccinate all these people and turn around and say ‘sorry, we can’t give you your second vaccination because we don’t have enough’.”
The commonwealth chief medical officer, Prof Paul Kelly, told reporters on Tuesday afternoon the requirement for workers dealing with Covid-affected patients to have the vaccine “was a sensible one”.
He disputed any suggestion vaccines had been held back due to concerns people’s second doses would not be available.
“From the beginning, we’ve been very clear how much is coming in and how much is being distributed,” Kelly said. “We’ve been very clear in relation to the Pfizer vaccine that the commonwealth will be keeping a second dose for any person who needs a second dose.”
– with Australian Associated Press